Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has told healthcare workers at a private seminar that Australia should not pursue a CCP virus elimination strategy but instead prepare the public to accept that community transmission will occur once enough are vaccinated, and international borders reopen.
Sutton believes Australians may not feel an urgency about the virus because of the country’s almost zero rates of community transmission, but he warned that it could change one day.
“We need to somehow communicate to the public that we’ve gotten to a place of complacency because we’ve driven transmission to zero, but we will face newly emerging transmission and a critical juncture where we need to make a call on letting it run,” Sutton said at a seminar held in April, according to leaked audio obtained by The Age.
This may happen when Australia has enough of the adult population immunised, and confidence in vaccines is high, Sutton said, according to The Age.
Sutton spoke to the need to open up the country for the economic and social benefit of international travellers wanting to do business in, learn, and visit Australia.
“We all need to step up to get vaccinated in order to open up Australia to world travel and arrivals so that our education sector, tourism sector, and all of the other kinds of compassionate reasons for us to see family and friends overseas can come to the fore,” he said.
Sutton’s comments were echoed by Australia’s former deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, who last week warned that Australians have to come to terms with the fact the nation cannot ride out the pandemic “in an eliminationist bunker,” likening an elimination strategy as the pursuit of a “false idol.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Coatsworth told the Australasian College of Surgeons on May 13 that once a significant majority of the community is vaccinated, there will be pressure to open borders without resistance.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he agreed with Coatsworth that Australia should not pursue the “false idol” of eradicating COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“We are not pursuing a [COVID-19] elimination strategy … you can’t eliminate the virus,” Frydenberg said on May 15.
The treasurer’s comments come after he described Victoria’s $200 million plan for a purpose-built quarantine facility as “the most comprehensive,” while the prime minister said it was “fair dinkum.”
The state last month proposed the 500-bed facility at Mickleham, north of Melbourne, and wants the federal government to fund and build it. Frydenberg confirmed on May 12 that the federal government was still considering the Victorian plan.
Last year, Victoria went into a prolonged lockdown that lasted 112 days due to failures in the state’s hotel quarantine program. The majority of Australia’s CCP virus deaths (920) were in Victoria (820), followed by New South Wales (54).
The federal government doesn’t expect Australia’s international borders to open until mid-2022.